Redmond startup bets big on holidays with mobile controller

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by RENAY SAN MIGUEL / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on October 28, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 28 at 11:52 AM

The rise of mobile devices sparked a new casual gaming category that usually requires nothing more than your fingers to race an explorer through an ancient temple or send birds with nasty dispositions flying into chortling pigs.

Yet developers are now able to write more complex activities into mobile games. They can design first person shooters and examples of other gaming genres for a tablet or smart phone.

That trend has presented a business opportunity for a Redmond-based start up, Evolution Controllers.

"You don't need a controller for Angry Birds," says Evolution's founder Matthew Hefferon. "That works great, but developers are making these games that are more engaging. You need that tactile feel. Your hands cover up the screen. You can't play these games, there's too much going on. So as the games are getting better and better, that's where these controllers come into play."

Hefferon's company, hoping to be the next firm to join the thriving and influential gaming business community in the Seattle area, has developed the Drone controller. It's an open-source, Bluetooth controller for mobile devices, PCs and Macs. In development for more than two years, Hefferon's team has tweaked the design while lining up overseas suppliers to manufacture the finished product.

To make that happen, Evolution Controllers launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding project on Oct. 23 with the goal of raising $30,000. So far the company had raised more than $23,000, which is evidence of the interest among gaming enthusiasts. Hefferon credits the input his company received from gamers about the Drone user experience during trade shows and conventions.

"We've brought the controller to people, and people validated it for us," Hefferon said. "They said, 'we want this, we like this,' so really having that communication with people helped grow that product, helped grow that brand. You're really able to sell them something they're interested in and that they helped build."

Those sales can start in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season once the Kickstarter goal is reached, he added. The Drone controller will sell for $59.

Any extra Kickstarter funds raised will be used to develop a separate controller that supports games using the iOS 7 operating system. Right now the Drone is compatible with more than 200 Android and iOS games, as well as any PC or Mac that has keyboard and mouse support.

Hefferon knows there is competition shaping up in the controllers-for-mobile-devices space. He believes the open source foundation of the Drone and its sleek design will help Evolution Controllers separate from the pack.

"We are the most compatible. We don't require apps to do things," he said. "We don't have all this special stuff that you need for this controller. We really wanted to make it user friendly."

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